Thursday, January 31, 2013

More Fireforge Knights

Here's the second batch of 13th Century German Knights, made from a mix of parts from Fireforge's range of mounted knights and sergeants. Apart from the 'heroic' proportions of some of the weapons, I love these figures. A real pleasure to paint.

Apologies for the crappy photos, but I'm just back from an evening eating schnitzels with Paul of the Man Cave, and wanted to get these images up. I have yet to add banners, and as always everything is hand painted.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Custom Movement Trays

Over the past year I've been basing most of my dark ages figures individually, for use in SAGA. Ideally however I would also like to use the same figures in games like Impetus and Dux Bellorum. I love the look of large bases looking like mini-dioramas, and I'm usually frustrated with the solution of using movement trays to group individually based figures. They never look realistically packed in close enough to each other, and usually stand in neat rows worthy of the Welsh Guards.

I got in touch with the good folks at Warbases and explained my dilemma. They were incredibly helpful and quick to respond, and here is the result.

I call these the 'Dux Homunculorum shieldwall bases'. Each base has a frontage of 12cm and depth of 5cm, so ideal for Impetus and Dux Bellorum. The individual 2cm holes for inserting bases are as closely packed as Warbases could get them, and they came up with several variations of slightly uneven rows and spacing at my request.

What do you think? They are still a compromise, with the figures not packed in closely enough to really resemble a shieldwall, but I reckon this is the best solution for basing individual figures I've ever seen. I'm sure Warbases would love to sell them to anyone who is interested.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Waterboys and Zombies


Back to school tomorrow for another year of inspiring young minds. Nooooooooooooooooooo!

The last week of holidays has been quite nice. An absolute highlight was being able to see The Waterboys live in Sydney. They have been a favourite band of mine since about 1986. I fondly remember writing out lyrics from some of their songs on my school folder circa 1987, and from 1989-the early 90s they were the soundtrack to my life. So I've been waiting about 25 years to see them live, and finally Mike Scott got around to bringing the current lineup to Australia.

There were two Sydney shows. The Duchess bought me tickets to the first one for Christmas, which turned out to be an evening almost entirely showcasing Mike Scott's work putting the words of W.B Yeats to music. It was a great night, and stunningly beautiful music, but I had the strange experience of seeing a band I have been obsessively following for years and not really knowing the songs. They played three old favourites as encores, and it was quite sweet to see the pudgy middle aged audience go nuts (I include myself in this, obviousy). In fact, I was struck by the close resemblance between the audience and the crowd at most wargames shows, with the fundamental difference of course that there were lots of women at the gig. The Duchess and I had a grand old night.

Dux Homunculorum Having A Grand Old Night

So grand in fact that I couldn't resist buying some tickets for the second Sydney show, in the Opera House on Australia Day. This was much more a general retrospective set, and it was just brilliant to hear so many songs that are like old friends. Mike Scott is one of perhaps a minority of performers who sound even better live than on disk. My musical hero is still firmly on his pedestal.

Waterboys Live At Sydney Opera House

Why the zombies in the post heading?

Over the past few months I have been steadily coming to the realisation that I am in serious danger of developing what we might call a 'wargamer's physique'. I like food. I like beer. I like sedentary hobbies, and as the Duchess pithily observed, 'the trouble with nerds and exercise is that it is so very very boring.'

The crunch came when I had to go to a wedding a week or so back and found that one of my work shirts that I haven't worn since December no longer does up around my neck. Must have shrunk or something. Drastic measures are obviously necessary, so I've been a week not eating anything sweet, hardly drinking and even doing some structured exercise.

Which is where the zombies come in. You may recall my mate Antonius, who we last met fraternising with zombies in Sydney's Hyde Park. Antonius is ludicrously fit, and regularly runs distances I would feel tired to drive. However, he put me onto an app for my new iPhone (you may recall my previous phone was incinerated in a bushfire) called Zombies, Run! Basically it is a fitness program built around a zombie game. You head off on a walk or run, listen to your phone, and the story unfolds. You play the role of a Runner, collecting supplies etc for a community of survivors, and as you complete missions different parts of the story are unlocked. It's a brilliant idea, quite fun and has got me running a bit, or at least shambling slightly faster than a zombie. The cheap version (which I naturally bought) was only a couple of bucks. The more expensive one I think includes graphics so you can see your community grow and has a wider range of missions. Strongly recommended if you're worried about your weight but bored beyond belief by the prospect of just going for a jog or visiting a gym.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sons of Death

This week I've been chipping away at the next unit of Fireforge knights, but also managed to finish a unit of Gripping Beast Sons of Death (Gall-Geidhill) for SAGA. These feature as a unit of Swords for Hire in the rules, but I mainly got them because I like the sculpts (by Bill Thornhill). One of the nicest things about Bill Thornhill's sculpts is the way the right hands come as a separate piece holding a weapon, rather than the less convincing open hands of most of the earlier Gripping Beast figures.

Since they are supposed to be a unit of mercenaries I gave them a consistent colour theme on the shields. Most of the designs are supposed to look pretty Norse, with a few nods to some Irish Celtic influence.

I'm looking forward to using these in SAGA. in particular, they should scare my Breton nemesis quite a bit. Heh.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

First unit of Fireforge Knights

I've finished the first batch of 12 knights from Fireforge. These were made up from components of their three boxes (Teutonics, Templars and Sergeants) for maximum variety, and are going to be used as a mid-13th century force of the Holy Roman Empire. Some I like, others didn't quite work, but I'll get better. The bloke with the upright lance will be carrying a banner, probably of the Archbishop of Trier.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Project Kursk Part 8: Dug in Artillery WIP

Firstly, welcome to Johan Krieg, the 225th follower of this humble blog.

This is a WIP to show how I'm basing artillery for Project Kursk. Basically, I wanted to work out a simple and interchangeable system that would allow guns to either stand alone on their own bases or slot into bases showing entrenched positions.

The bases are cut out of 2mm plastic card. To start with, I cut out a 7cm square, then cut out of that an insert measuring 3cm X 5cm, leaving me with a U-shaped base 2cm wide to build up as a reinforced position. As you might be able to see in the photo below, I found it helped to drill holes at the corners of the section I was going to cut out of the 7cm base, heavily score it then carefully snap out the 3cm X 5cm section. I cut off the corners of the U-shaped section and bevelled the edges.

Next, I constructed the wooden interior face of the entrenchment. The first version used bamboo skewers (that's the one on the left in the picture below), but that looked a little too big for 15mm, so I switched to toothpicks. I started by plonking on the uprights in some blobs of Tamiya model putty, then build up the horizontal logs with toothpicks and PVA. Five toothpicks seemed about the right height at the front of the position.

The earth bank at the front was simply made up with some Das air-drying clay I had lying around. The final position is suitable for the 45mm, 57mm and 76.2mm AT guns made by Plastic Soldier Company, and should work for most German guns as well.
So there we are. Simple and quick interchangeable bases.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Assembling Fireforge Knights

Just after Christmas the Duchess and I took our retinue away to stay with her parents for a week. Fearing hobby withdrawal I took away a box each of Fireforge's Templar Knights, Teutonic Knights and Mounted Sergeants to assemble. I'm intending to use them as a Holy Roman Imperial army from the 13th Century, probably led by Frederick II, so I was happy to mix and match components from all three boxes together.

I know some people are interested in seeing these figures assembled, so here are some images of what I put together. To start with, what's the difference between the three boxes? Basically, all three contain the same core components (torsos, weapons, arms). The horse differ, with the Teutonics having all the horses with caparisons, the Sergeants having none, and the Templars having half of each. The shields are different in the three boxes, as are the heads, with the Teutonics having mainly crested barrel helms, the Templars containing a nice range of transitional helmets and the Sergeants having kettle hats and so on. Crested helms were certainly not peculiar to the Teutonic order, so I will be using them alongside other helmets for my Imperial knights.

There is lots to like about these figures. They assembly very easily, with no gaps and almost no flash of any kind. The components between the three boxes are all completely interchangeable, so this is a great way to get a large and diverse force of 13th century knights. Some torso and arm combinations allow figures to be defending against an attack to their right, which is a rare thing from figure manufacturers, and looks great. In short, these are nice figures, and check out Ubique Matt's blog for an example of how amazing they can look when painted.

Things not to like? Well, the weapons, frankly. The swords are great, but the morning stars, maces and axes included in the sets are really a bit overscale, I think. A little bit '1240K'. The axe, for example, looks like a two-handed weapon, and I think would be exceptionally hard to use on horseback. The lances may be a bit too long, and you need to be careful to choose the right arms to carry them or they look very unwieldly. I went ahead and used all the the weapons from Fireforge, but those more motivated than I might seek alternatives.

One final interesting point raised by Matt on his blog concerns the appearance of caparisons. Although Fireforge (along with just about everyone else) model the horses' tails sticking out of the caparisons, Matt suggests that medieval art seems to always show them covered by the caparisons. After flicking through a few images this looks to be right, which is a bit baffling. The caparisons must have got pretty filthy at the rear, shall we say. Fortunately I read this on Matt's blog after I had assembled the figures, thus avoiding the nagging feeling that I ought to research it properly and remove all the horses' tails. I'm looking forward to seeing these all painted en masse!

Project Kursk Part 7: Dug-In Soviet Infantry

Here are the results of an experiment I'm pretty pleased with.

One of the advantages of buying plastic 15mm figures is that they are easy and cheap to convert, and I have no qualms about chopping them up. I decided I wanted a bunch of Soviet infantry in foxholes, this being Kursk after all, so I took a number of Plastic Soldier Company figures, cut them off at the waist, and added them to rough fox holes made from Miliput. I'm very pleased with the results, so long as you don't look too closely.

So here they are - a platoon of Soviet riflemen for Battle Group Kursk, in foxholes.

One thing I did learn from doing this is that I shouldn't have left any figures with weapons overhanging the edges of the base. Although it looks good, they are very prone to damage. Also, in the unforgiving close-ups, I realised that I should probably let the varnish dry thoroughly before dunking the base in sand. In my excitement I rushed them a bit! I do like the base with the two soldiers running for cover though.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Late Roman Saga Vers. 2.0

After some feedback from the SAGA forum and a bit more thought I've tweaked the Late Roman battleboard that I was playing around with last year. Thanks again to Damian for altering the file.

The main changes are that the Plumbatae ability can now be used in any melee, using the new concept of a Step 0 during melee from Raven's Shadow. It is also a bit cheaper. Barritus is a bit more expensive, and the ability previously known as 'Switch!' has the much more respectable name 'Ad Frontem.'


Friday, January 4, 2013

Project Kursk Part 6: Basic German Force Complete

Today I finished a third squad of Panzergrenadiers, along with a HQ group and a medic, completing my first platoon of armoured infantry for Battle Group Kursk. As a result of buying a better lamp from Ikea, I realised that the medic figure is modelled wearing the redcross surcoat that German medics were issued with. I would be surprised if these were worn much on the Eastern Front, but for game purposes I gave my chap the red and white surcoat.

First figures for 2013!

With the Hanomags and Panzer IVs I've already painted, I now have a starter force of Germans for BGK, so Soviets are next.

The platoon of Panzergrenadiers deploy from their transports.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Best Intentions for 2013

I had a great hobby year in 2012. It was a tough year in lots of ways, but the hobby did what a hobby should do, providing 'joy and forgetfulness'.

On to 2013. Here are my current plans and aspirations:

1. Paint up some Soviet and German forces for Battle Group Kursk in 15mm, as part of Project Kursk that I'll be running at the club at school.

2. Paint up 6 points of Irish for SAGA. Play lots of SAGA!

3. Work out a good flexible basing system, using different movement trays, to allow me to use my individually based figures for Impetus, Dux Bellorum etc. I'm going to talk to Warbases about making trays that really cram the figures together more.

4. Paint at least as many figures as I did in 2012.

5. Blog at least as much as 2012.

6. Run some blog prize giveaways.

7. Meet more fellow bloggers! Anyone visiting Sydney who would like to catch up, let me know.

8. Paint a 6 point Anglo-Saxon Warband for SAGA.

9. Paint a small 13th Century Holy Roman Empire army in 28mm.

10. Play a campaign of Dux Britanniarum.

11. Bite the bullet, grit my teeth, and rebase my 1/72 ECW figures. Finish my 1/72 ECW armies.

12. Make some more terrain suitable for the Dark Ages.

That should keep me busy for a while! Wish me luck.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Deus Vult! First Thoughts Part 2

Happy New Year Everyone! May this be a year filled with great hobby fun for you.

In Part 1 of this overview of Fireforge’s Deus Vult! rules I gave an overview of what’s in the book. In this post I am going to give a brief rundown of the rules, without going into too much detail but hopefully explaining something of their main features.

According to the authors, a game of Deus Vult! will take about 30-45 minutes when played between two armies of 750 points each, while a 1500 points battle will take a couple of hours (p. 91). I was surprised to read this, as it strikes me that players would have to be very familiar with the rules before it was possible to play in such a short time. In particular, I don’t think this estimate can include the Reconnaissance and Deployment phase of the game, explained below.

Figure basing is not covered until p. 160. The rules assume that units will be made up of stands measuring 60 X40mm for regimented infantry, 50 X 50mm for cavalry and 60 X 40mm for skirmishers. It is intended that the figures on the stands are based individually, or at least enough are to allow the removal of individual casualties, but the rules explain how tokens can be used if figures are based differently. As an example, basing cavalry on a mixture of 5cm wide bases and 2.5cm bases, with two or one figures respectively, would allow units to be made up for Deus Vult! and Impetus.

In my previous post, I explained how armies are organised and the way in which Battle Leaders have characteristics determined by dicing before the game. This then leads into the main rules section of the book, which covers pages 22-79.

Reconnaissance and Deployment

The deployment stage of a game of Deus Vult! looks fun, interactive, and quite time consuming. Indeed, the authors offer a simplified version of the rules for deployment on pages 157-8 for tournament play. If you have the time and inclination however, the main rules would considerably add to the game.

In brief, the battlefield is divided into six notional zones. When purchasing an army, points may be spent on scouts. The initial stage of the game involves the players alternating he placement of scouts in order to gain control of different zones of the battlefield. Once this is determined, the players alternate placing terrain in the zones they control. Scouts can also be withheld and traded for Subterfuge cards, which are drawn randomly and may allow the player to interfere with their opponent’s deployment.

This is an interesting way to manage the placement of terrain, and although highly abstract conveys something of the use of resources to secure the most advantageous terrain for your army. I like it.

Once terrain is placed, the armies deploy, starting with the Vanguards. There is a strong incentive to ensure that your army fields a Vanguard of skirmishers, as an unopposed deployment of skirmishers will seriously disrupt the opponent’s deployment, requiring Divisions to pass a test to avoid starting the game in disorder. If they fail the test catastrophically, Divisions in the Main Force may even find themselves lagging behind with the Rearguard. So spend points on skirmishers!

After placing the Vanguards, players alternate placing a card on the table face down representing each of their Battle Leaders. As they are revealed, each Leader’s Division is placed on the table within 8 inches of them. Rearguards are not deployed on the table, but may enter the battlefield once the game begins.

Turn Sequence

The turn sequence in Deus Vult looks quite interactive and tense – there will be no long tea breaks during the opponent’s turn in this game. Each player takes their cards representing each of their Battle Leaders at the start of the turn and arranges them in the order in which they wish to activate them. When both players have done so they roll for initiative. Both then reveal their top cards and the player with initiative chooses which Battle Leader will activate first, and so on through all the available leaders until the end of the turn. One suggested variation, which personally I like a lot, gives initiative to whoever orders their Leader cards first, which adds some nice pressure to decision making and hopefully speeds up the game.

When each Leader is activated they issue a number of commands to their Division depending on their command radius (8 inches) and Command Rating. Remember how the Battle Leader’s characteristics are diced for before deployment? Basically, Leaders with poor Command Ratings may find they are unable to issue orders to all the units in their Division, which is something to think about when recruiting your army. Battle Leaders when activated may also influence the Courage and Discipline of units proximate to them. It is worth pointing out here that one of the values every unit has is a score for Courage and one for Discipline, and these are used at different points in the game when a unit has to pass a test to avoid some negative consequence. This is a pretty typical game feature, but the mechanics in Deus Vult are a little more unusual. The scores on a D6 required to pass a test are always the same, with 6 resulting in a Resounding Success, 4-5 a Success and so on. What differs between units is the number of dice rolled by a given unit. For example, when trying to pass a Courage test a unit of Crusader Knights roll two dice, with the player choosing which score to use.


The authors have gone for a heroic flavour in Deus Vult by building in rules for Duels between Battle Leaders, while acknowledging that this didn’t actually happen very much historically. Duels may occur when an activated Battle Leader is attached to a unit in combat against an enemy unit that also has a Battle Leader attached, or a Leader may move into contact with an enemy counterpart and fight it out. The rules for this are pretty straightforward and detailed on pages 34-5. A Leader losing a Duels is humiliated, which has predictably embarrassing consequences for nearby friendly units (which may suffer Disarray).


The process for giving commands to individual units looks good. Each unit can be given up to 4 ‘Action Points’ worth of commands from a menu of 11 different types of commands. For example, Changing Formation costs 2 Action Points, Charging 4, Changing Direction one and so on. This seems like a good system, as it builds in limitations like the inability to change directions while charging the enemy without having to explicitly spell them all out. It may initially seem strange that any unit, regardless of quality, has access to 4 Action Points, but this makes more sense when you realise that different types of actions require Courage or Discipline tests, which will discriminate between better or worse units.

Movement and Combat

The movement rules seem pretty straightforward, and I won’t go over them in any detail. There are all the usual rules one would hope for covering moving through friendly units, the need to test the courage of Cavalry charging infantry, aligning units and so on. One minor feature that struck me was that units simply pivot on their centre when changing direction, rather than performing a wheel that requires the arc of movement to be measured. Again, I see this as an abstraction that would result in a faster and cleaner game than others I’ve played.

Combat is ‘buckets of dice’, with 6 resulting in a ‘Killing Strike’, 4-5 a Strike (a Killing Strike in melee if the target is disordered or against a missile attack if within the weapon’s Killing Range) and 1-3 a Miss. Killing Strikes can be saved by rolling against the unit’s Defence rating, otherwise an individual figure is removed for each. The total number of Strikes can then do bad things to the unit as a whole, depending on how the defending player goes when testing against the unit’s Resilience.

Obviously it’s all more complex than that, especially once you take into account terrain, skirmishers and such that I’ve only skimmed, but this might give you an idea of what’s involved. If it helps, there is a nice example of the steps involved in a melee in the margin on p. 51 that helped me understand the basics pretty clearly.

Traits and Reactions

Finally, Chapter 6 (pages 70-79) deals with all the specific characteristics (‘Traits’ and ‘Reactions’) possessed by different units. This aspect of the rules reminded me a bit of SAGA, and not in a negative way. Like SAGA, the differences between different types of troops are built into the characteristics of units in the army lists, rather than being built into the core rules through loads of exceptions or modifiers and so forth. The array of different Traits and Reactions looks a bit overwhelming at first, and I’m sure that inexperienced players using a diverse army would find themselves forgetting to apply various characteristics, to their subsequent chagrin.

Just by way of an example, I’ve picked a unit from the army lists to serve as an example of their different stats, Traits and Reactions:

Dismounted Knights
Move – 8”
Discipline – 1 (ie roll one die)
Courage – 2
Resilience – 6
Defence – 3
Shield – yes Traits – martial prowess
Reactions – shielding
(I’ve left out other information such as the equipment of the unit, and the option to give them two handed weapons etc).

So in this example, Dismounted Knights have the Trait of martial prowess, which increases their melee score against various opponents and makes them reluctant to evade an enemy. The Shielding Reaction allows the unit to improve its protection against shooting, at the expense of some of its ability to move during the unit’s next turn.

That’s just one example, and I chose it because it was simple. It isn’t unusual in the lists for a unit to have five or more Traits. This feature of the rules will either strike you as fiddly, or as a good way of achieving the flavour of different historical opponents.

So there we are – some first thoughts on Deus Vult. The verdict at the moment? Beautifully presented rules that promise a strong flavour of the period they are designed to cover, rather than a core game engine with period ‘fluff’ bolted on. I have reservations about the length of games, but if it is indeed possible to play a modest game of Deus Vult in less than an hour, I’m quite excited. The diversity of specific traits looks confusing, but if you are the type of person who loved poring over Saga battle boards to really grasp how to use each faction, you’ll probably love it.

I’m left thinking that I would love to play a game of Deus Vult, and I spent an hour last night looking at Seljuk Turks on the Perry website and comparing prices with Gripping Beast. God wills it!